Day 15: Dressing

Duck Prosciutto - made in-house

Duck Prosciutto – made in-house

It rained today. Walking out to the back fridge in the rain was not so fun (yes, we have a separate walk-in refrigerator to store all of our extra produce… it’s also where the kegs feed into the bar taps for draught beer). Actually, walking back with a plastic bin full of cauliflower and cucumbers was probably these worst part, since on the way there, I was able to use the bin as a makeshift umbrella. The only thought in my head was man, I haven’t been sick in years but if it’s going to happen this year, it will be because of this moment. Luckily, that first trip was my only venture into the rain, although the bracing wind did flow in through our screen door and flood the kitchen with cold air throughout the day and night.

Today I got to use the recipe book and prepare one of the dressings. That means I actually got to cook – yay! My assignment was cauliflower dressing, which bore a surprising resemblance to the soup. My station lead said he wanted me to do more than just slice vegetables and I appreciated the opportunity. As it turned out, today was not just about making dressing. It was about reading the recipe, structuring a plan of action, assembling my mise en place,  selecting the appropriate equipment and tools, applying the techniques I learned (from prior knowledge and from working here). Staying organized was key.

I started the garlic confit over on the hot line while I chopped up the cauliflower. Then I moved the setup over to the back stove so I could cook down the vegetables with the garlic. As I stood stirring, people would call out to me to ask about the status of their pots, which took residence over the other 5 burners. “Is my cream boiling over?” asked Pastry Girl. “Can you turn down the heat on mine?” shouted Fish Guy, whose pressure cooker was whistling like a tea kettle. I love the hustle and bustle of a busy prep day (even if that means that the Vitamix blender I need to use has a waiting list).

Usually, our station is set up and ready to go by around 4pm, but today there was an unexpected delay… It seems one of the floor drains was clogged (of course, it had to be the main one just between the kitchen and the entrance to the dining room). So Chef and Charcuterie Guy had to get their hands dirty. Plungers, coat hangers, a heavy-duty vacuum, even a long garden hose from outside to flush the pipes. They say that part of working in a kitchen is more than just cooking. “Chefs don’t just chef, they’re also carpenters, electricians, coaches, plumbers, managers, and therapists.” (SF Weekly article)

After that mess was finally resolved and cleaned up, we scarfed down a quick Family Meal of homemade sausage and Cajun dirty rice before the first few tickets came in. It turned out to be a slow night, though with Chef manning the pass the entire evening, it was still a bit nerve-wracking bringing our dishes up to the window. I set down a wedge salad for one of the tickets when I heard him ask me if I made it. I replied “Yes Chef!” and he said it looked lovely and to keep up the good work. :)

During the pauses when we had an empty board, Station Lead would go outside for a smoke break and Dishwasher Turned Pantry Guy would goof off somewhere. (This was the third Saturday in a row that Station-mate was off, and I’m beginning to suspect that it’s because Chef knows I will be here to help.) I noticed that Charcuterie Guy was slicing a new item for the salumi / cured meats plate and went to check it out. Duck prosciutto (pictured above). Thick duck breasts brined and cured in a similar style as the Italian ham, these were made in-house, as are all of our charcuterie items. And man, are they good after being lovingly cared for over the past two weeks.

It seems that Hot Apps Turned Fish Guy is doing well, so Fish Guy was more of a floater, helping out where needed throughout service. He ended up hanging around us, joking around with some literal and figurative rib-jabbing. He likes to mess with people, so he would occasionally sneak up on me and jab me right between the ribs. (This is the same guy who surprised me with a ninja kick that made my knees buckle under my own weight… I think on my second day.) I didn’t get special treatment though; he also whacked Pizza Guy and Charcuterie Guy with towels just like those locker room towel fights I would see in movies. Charcuterie Guy reaffirmed my initial suspicions — this is all a part of becoming truly accepted as “one of the guys.” So while my rib muscles still ache a bit, it feels bittersweet.

We cleaned up and scrubbed down early, so I went upstairs as usual to get my things from the Office. Chef was there, along with Station Lead and Catering Girl. I ended up staying for the conversation. They were mainly commenting on how unusually slow it is right now and that the trend seems to be affecting the restaurant industry as a whole. Chef mentioned that he would hate to have to fire hardworking people just to cut costs and hopes it doesn’t come to that. They shared stories of Christmases past, including tales of ridiculous catering orders that were nearly impossible to accomplish. As the conversation was winding down, Chef started to change into his regular clothes when he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “I’m going to change my pants now, so you can either leave, turn away, or see me in my underwear.” (Again, you have to imagine this in a British accent.) I thanked him for the warning and said I’d see him next week, chuckling to myself as I headed down the stairs.

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